Journeys December Newsletter

But What About the Introverts?
by Erik Palmer, Veteran Teacher, Author, Consultant, Professional Speaker, and Journeys Program Consultant

I get this question a lot when I do workshops. I am concerned that students are not getting sufficient instruction in the number one language art, speaking. My books and my workshops are about showing teachers how to improve students’ oral communication skills. In my presentations, I point out that speaking well will benefit all students for their entire lives, I share a framework that makes the complex art of oral communication simple and understandable, I show specific lessons to teach all students how to be better verbal communicators, and I make it practical and easy to teach every child to speak well. But there are non-believers, and these questions commonly come up:

    What about introverts?
    What about students who hate public speaking?
    What about kids who refuse to do it?
    What about kids who can’t speak in front of classmates?
    What about…

To answer these questions, I'll offer five suggestions.

  1. Do not sell students short.
    Do you normally quit on children? Do you fail to teach math to a child for whom you think math is difficult? Do you tell some child, “Nah, don’t do this writing assignment. I don’t think you can do it.”? Do you fail to expect good outcomes and therefore stop helping some children? If you do, please quit teaching. Let’s not be naïve—some kids are better at some things than others. Some kids have an easier time reading or doing math or drawing or singing or coding or whatever else other kids do. But our job is to help every child make progress. It is no different with speaking. Some kids love to talk, some are good at talking (those two do not always go together!), and some kids do not love to talk. Oh well. We can help all of them become competent oral communicators.
  2. Introversion is not a disabling condition.
    Have you read Quiet by Susan Cain? You should. It will cause you to rethink some things. If Cain is correct, at least one-third of us are introverts. She is, and I know I am. And yet I now speak for a living. Huh? Lacking a propensity for something is not the same as lacking the ability to do that thing. I taught for 21 years, and I had about 3,000 students during that time. Using Cain’s formula, about 1,000 of my students were introverts. Of that 1,000, how many failed to do the speaking I asked of them? Zero. None. Nada. Zip. How many of them failed to improve as speakers? Zero. Did I have students that needed extra encouragement? Yep. Students who needed a little hand-holding? Absolutely. Students who needed a little extra help and practice? For sure. The math teacher on my team had extra sessions to help struggling students. Shouldn’t a teacher asking kids to speak do the same sort of thing? Of course. What kind of teacher doesn’t give extra help to kids who need it?
  3. Don’t believe the hype.
    I know the story: “Public speaking is the number one fear of adults.” It isn’t. Fear of public speaking showed up often when folks were asked to make a list of the ten things they feared, but not one of you would say, “Burn me badly! I’d prefer that to speaking in front of a group!” But the bad rap remains, so when a child says, “I fear speaking!,” many teachers are tempted to say, “You poor baby! Me, too! We all hate speaking! Don’t worry, I’ll protect you! I won’t make you do that horrible thing!”


    As I mentioned, some kids hate math. Many adults say, “I was never good at math!” So do you excuse students from math? Don’t let a child’s professed fear/dislike become an excuse for non-participation. Part of the problem is the phrase “public speaking.” Don’t teach “public speaking,” teach speaking. I teach kids how to speak well in any situation. I want good discussion comments. I want well-spoken questions. I want good peer-editing conversations. If you make speaking a valued part of your class, speaking loses its scariness. It’s just another version of what we always do.
  4. Don’t cheat any child out of an important life skill.
    Like it or not, verbal communication is the number one language art. We speak far more often than we read or write. Professionally and socially, speaking well increases the odds of success. Students will have to interview for a job, explain the app to an investor, talk about their graphic design portfolio, talk to a client about the landscaping proposal or investment plan, and on and on. Why wouldn’t you want to help children in a low-stakes, we-are-all-just-learning-here environment like your classroom? Yep, you hate this, but you’ll hate it much more if you don’t have the skills you want when it really counts.
  5. We fear what we don’t know.
    Years ago, I was asked by a friend if I wanted to go for a ride in his plane, a two-seater, single-propeller Piper Cub. I said, “Sure,” but we were just off the ground when I had a small panic attack. What if something happened to him? A heart attack, for instance. Panic! Why? Because I don’t know how to fly a plane. If I knew, I wouldn’t have panicked. Instead I'd think, sure, something happened to Steve, but I can get this thing down.

    The largest contributor to students’ fear is that they don’t know how to fly. Every year, teachers have made them talk, but teachers have never taught them exactly how to do it. You know it’s true—you have a haiku unit, but you do not have a speaking unit. Students get lessons about comma usage before being asked to write an essay, but never get a lesson about how to add life to their voices. Students get lessons about parts of a cell, but never get lessons about parts of a well-built visual aid. Students get lessons about finding common denominators, but never get lessons about finding good descriptive hand gestures to enhance their words. You will find that once students know exactly what they are supposed to do, they can do it.

    Bottom line: all students deserve the chance to develop as speakers. It is our job to make that happen.

Component Spotlight

Performance Assessment

Performance Assessment components, both Student Edition and Teacher Guide, prepare students in Grades 3–6 for the types of performance tasks commonly found on high-stakes assessments. Lessons are organized by Analyze the Model, Practice the Task, and Perform the Task.

Available in print and online, Grade 3–5 Performance Assessments include units for Opinion Essay, Informative Essay, Response to Literature, and Narrative performance tasks. Grade 6 units cover Argumentative Essay, Informative Essay, and Literary Analysis. Step-by-step instructions help students analyze multiple sources and respond to performance task questions. The Student Edition guides students as they plan, draft, and revise and edit their responses. Print Student Editions are consumable and contain student writing models and graphic organizers for analyzing texts and planning and developing responses. Self-evaluation checklists and peer review activities provide structure as students improve their writing.

Performance Assessment lessons can be used flexibly—in whole groups, small groups, independent practice, at the end of each unit, or all at once right before high-stakes testing.

TIP: The Grade 3–6 Performance Assessment Teacher Guides contain multiple 4-point rubrics for scoring student performance tasks.

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Technology Tips

Get the Most out of Your Journeys Digital Resources

Have you found these resources to support Journeys Speaking and Listening instruction on ThinkCentral? From the Resources section, scroll to the right and click the Interactive Lessons icon for student materials and the Professional Development icon for teacher resources.

Speaking and Listening Professional Development includes two subcategories. The Basics builds a foundation for understanding by using videos, links, and research from experts, including Journeys Program Consultant, Erik Palmer. The Instructional Tools category gives practical strategies that can be applied in the classroom.

Interactive Lessons are for Grades 3–6 and cover writing, speaking and listening (3–6), and research (4–6). Speaking and Listening topics include Rules for a Good Discussion, Speaking Constructively, and Listening and Responding.

TIP: Look for point-of-use links in the Teacher eBook for help with incorporating Speaking and Listening Interactive Lessons into your instruction.

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Q: What are Projectables and why do I need them?
A: In the Journeys program, Projectables are digital PDFs that are displayed and worked on together in a whole- or small-group setting, depending on classroom needs. Projectable content includes the following: read alouds for modeling fluency, graphic organizers to apply comprehension skills, practice pages for vocabulary strategies and grammar, graphic organizers for writing, and student writing models. Projectables are conveniently linked at point-of-use in the Teacher eBooks and can also be found online, with answer keys, under the Teacher Resources icon.

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Q: How can I find the audio for Journeys student texts?
A: All of the audio is housed online, and depending on component, there can be two ways to access audio files. One path is the Audio Hub, accessed through the ThinkCentral Dashboard. Both the Teacher Resources and Student Resources icon will lead to the Audio Hub. Components listed under Audio Hub will vary by grade level. Note that Audio Hub audio does not pull up the eBook texts. The screen will be blank when audio is playing through the Audio Hub. If students prefer to look at the text while listening to audio, they can listen by selecting the Audio icon from the left toolbar of their Student Edition or Leveled Reader eBooks. Selecting the "T" icon when the audio is playing will enable the text highlight that accompanies the audio.

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Q: Our media center librarian would like to order copies of the authentic texts in Journeys. Are all the excerpted trade books in the Student Editions still in print?
A: An estimated 95% of the authentic texts in Journeys Student Editions are still in print and can be ordered online like any other trade book. If a particular book cannot be found online, the librarian can look at the Acknowledgments page in the grade-level Student Edition to contact the publisher directly. If a book has recently gone out of print, publishers will sometimes have copies of the book in the warehouse. If this is the case, the librarian can order copies of the book directly from the publisher.

Q: Which Journeys resources are available for advanced students who need more of a challenge?
A: Depending on grade level, advanced students could move to the next grade's online Leveled Readers for more of a challenge. Also, the next grade's FYI site could be used to supplement instruction. Aside from these suggestions, any type of project work is a good fit for most advanced students. See unit projects in the Journeys Teacher Editions, and Trade Book Projects in the Extended Reading Trade Book lessons, also in the Teacher Editions. Another idea is to assign an exemplar text using the CC Exemplar Resource under Teacher Resources on the ThinkCentral Dashboard. Finally, every lesson tab in the Teacher Edition has an Advanced activity in the Differentiated Instruction section and a Cross-Curricular Connection activity. The cross-curricular lesson could be modified for students who are in need of an extra challenge.

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